If there's a sports tale ripe for the telling, it's George Steinbrenner's stewardship of the Yankees. But where to center? On the tumult, the terror, the absurdity, or the glory? In All Roads Lead to October
, Maury Allen
refracts the broad spectrum. Wandering genially from story to story and era to era, he scatters anecdotes and observations like a spray hitter in a book that reads like a long evening on a barstool beside an old sportswriter (which he is). He may stray at times, but he never gets lost.
Still, it's hard to go too off the track given the situations that have arisen and the personalities that have revolved through Steinbrenner's stormy tenure. Writers can't make up stuff like pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson trading families, Reggie Jackson proving "the magnitude of me" with his bat, the zaniness surrounding Billy Martin's hirings and firings, the humiliation of Dave Winfield, the exile of Yogi Berra, the sentimental melodrama of Joe Torre, and Darryl Strawberry's bottomless second chance. Well-covered stuff? Sure. But Allen's not shy about inflicting his personal prejudices and assessments on them--they give old stuff new spin.
Of course, even in that Bronx Zoo, there's no animal quite like Steinbrenner himself. With insights finely tuned over time, Allen paints the Boss with brush strokes nuanced enough to capture the complexities and contradictions Steinbrenner wallows in--is anyone else in sports so fascinatingly arrogant, egotistical, unbridled, passionate, terrifying, astute, silly, sappy, able, and goodhearted all in one? Allen doesn't think so, which isn't surprising. What is is his ultimate appraisal: "Imagine," Allen submits, "the Boss as a Cooperstown bust." Given the record, it's really not that big a stretch. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Allen's uneven account of the fortunes of the Yankees since George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973 can be divided into two partsAthe early years when Allen covered the team on a daily basis for the New York Post, and the later years after he had left the beat. During his days as a beat reporter, Allen had an insider's view of how the team rose from also-rans to world champions, and he provides a detailed, anecdote-filled look at those teams featuring such colorful characters as Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella and Billy Martin. Despite winning back-to-back World Series in 1977 and '78, the Yankees were a dysfunctional group: Allen vividly captures the battles between Jackson and Munson, Martin and Jackson, and Steinbrenner and most of the team. Allen is particularly sharp in tracing the complex relationship between Steinbrenner and Martin, the Yankee manager who Steinbrenner hired and fired five times. He's much less successful in recounting the Yankees' return to glory in the second half of the 1990s. The World Series the team won in 1996, 1998 and 1999 are covered in a perfunctory fashion, as Allen no longer had the access to the team he had 20 years earlier. Also disappointing is Allen's decision to take some cheap shots at several players, including the late Munson, whom Allen describes as a sour man; he even brags that he will never vote for Munson to enter the Hall of Fame. Allen does say, however, that Steinbrenner, having overseen five World Series teams, does warrant consideration in Cooperstown, a position that will have Yankee fans arguing for years. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.